The Political Economy of Ceramic Production in Barbados: From plantation industry to craft production
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Douglas V. Armstrong
Caribbean, Ceramics, Historical Archaeology
Social and Behavioral Sciences
This project examines archaeological, historical, and ethnographic data regarding ceramic production in Barbados during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. The project uses multiscalar analysis, microhistory, and craft and industrial production as lenses for examining the production, distribution and use of local ceramics to explore changes in local craft production. The local production of ceramics allowed sugar plantation managers and owners to use local resources by providing ceramics used in the production of sugar which facilitated economic production on the island's plantations. Sugar pots and cones were used directly in the production of sugar and other ceramic items like tiles and brick were used in the construction of industrial buildings used to boil and store sugar, the primary cash crop that was exported. Sugar contributed significantly to the emergence of the sugar economy and the emergence of a reliance on enslaved laborer, which had profound impacts on social and economic systems in Barbados and the broader Atlantic world.
The ceramics produced contributed a relatively low cost medium of sugar storage that fulfilled the planter's objective of maximizing financial profits associated with sugar production. In addition, the marketing of ceramics contributed to parallel forms of economic production as from the inception the plantation operated kilns also produced a small proportion of domestic wares. In time, these domestic wares were incorporated into internal marketing systems developed for and by the islands domestic population. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, independently operated kilns were being operated by free blacks who specialized in the production of utilitarian domestic and household wares.
This study focuses on archaeological and historical data associated with two pothouses located in the Parish of St. John, Barbados. The study includes an analysis of the two sites and their associated ceramic assemblages. It also, draws upon the rich historic accounts recorded in the detailed records of Codrington Plantation. This is perhaps the most detailed primary source for information on eighteenth and nineteenth-century industrial pottery production in the Caribbean. The study also draws upon an array of historical information for the island including ethnographic data collected by Jerome Handler in the 1960s from the village of Chalky Mount in the Parish of St. Andrew.
The Codrington records and the ethnographic accounts provide details regarding the ware types, production systems, and marketing of Barbadian made ceramics. The site data and historical analyses combine to inform about the relationships of people involved in organizing, producing, selling wares as well as their changing role in the local economy. A typological schema has been produced that will assist researchers in understanding both industrial and local ceramic production. This scheme involves three types of ceramics production in Barbados; the first is plantation based and relied generally on enslaved labor to produce architectural and industrial wares for plantation use. The second involves independent or off-plantation production producing domestic, industrial and architectural wares for the plantations and also the open market relying on either free or enslaved potters. The third type involves the production by free potters of domestic and craft items for the local and tourist markets.
Scheid, Dwayne, "The Political Economy of Ceramic Production in Barbados: From plantation industry to craft production" (2015). Dissertations - ALL. 329.